Profession

Colorado has assembled a blue-ribbon council of sorts to review and suggest possible changes to the teaching profession in the state.  Some of the proposed changes would involve removing all barriers to educator licensure except 1) having a Bachelor’s degree 2) not being a felon 3) passing a content test (currently a multiple-choice exam).  The group is also considering using evaluation results to strip educators of licensure if they are rated “ineffective” using the state’s evaluation system, which is hitched to student outcome results.

This group, called the LEAD Compact, is tasked with coming to some level of consensus and recommending legislation for the state General Assembly to consider in the next session.

I am not part of the membership of the LEAD Compact, but as a professional educator and a Superintendent, the decisions that could emerge from that group certainly might have an effect on the schools I am responsible for.  So, I created some guidance for the group to consider in making its determinations.

To the credit of those facilitating the LEAD Compact, my (unsolicited) guidance was accepted and provided to the members of the group.  I present the document here, as I think a larger discussion on the teaching profession is in order, beyond just the membership of this esteemed group.

From:  Jason E. Glass, Superintendent & Chief Learner

To:       Membership of the LEAD Compact

Re:      Redesigning Educator Quality for Genuine and Sustained Greatness

Date:   November 18, 2013

Overview

“The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” – McKinsey & Co., 2007

 It is, without question, of paramount importance that we focus on raising educator quality in the state of Colorado if we are to become a high performing education system.  The purpose of this memorandum is to brief the members of the LEAD compact some design elements for raising educator quality that are 1) systemic in nature 2) benchmarked against the highest performing education systems in the world and that 3) views teaching as a high status and highly skilled profession, on par with medicine or law.

Internationally Benchmarked Strategies

The recruitment, development, and retention of a highly skilled and talented educator workforce is a bedrock element in every great education system.  Comparative research on high performing global education systems (see McKinsey & Co., 2007 & 2010; Tucker, 2011; Hargreaves & Fullan 2012) point to systemic and focused efforts to raise the quality of educators through a combination of the following strategies:

  • Raising the status and respect of the teaching profession in society.
  • Increasing beginning pay levels to be competitive with other professional options.
  • Using rigorous and selective preparation programs that balance high levels of content knowledge, empirically-driven pedagogical training, and extensive clinical experience.
  • Being highly selective at the point of entry into the profession via licensure and hiring practices.
  • Providing intensive and quality mentoring support for beginning teachers.
  • Building wisdom and effectiveness in the teacher workforce by retaining experienced educators.
  • Providing career options and pathways through the profession which keep educators connected to teaching.
  • Creating intentional structures where educators work together in teams focused on instruction, using formative measures to guide the delivery of instruction.
  • Using (but not hyper or over-relying) on respectful performance-management systems to provide individualized and timely feedback on instruction.

Using international and national benchmarking strategies, where we observe the practices of the best performing systems, the above strategies emerge as the de facto recipe for improvement of educator quality as a system.  Building real educator quality requires an extraordinary expenditure of focused, intentional, and thoughtful effort what may be years.

There simply are no shortcuts to genuine improvement and the establishment and ongoing perpetuation of a high quality education profession.

Design Principles for Educator Quality

The following questions are intended as design principles, which may be helpful to the members of the LEAD Compact in framing their work.  Considering again those touchstones of 1) systemic in nature 2) internationally benchmarked and 3) based on a professional model of teaching – it is hoped that whatever system the LEAD Compact recommends stands up well when considered against these design elements.

  1. Does the new system of licensure serve to raise the status, respect, and credibility of the teaching profession in our society?
  2. Does the new system of licensure serve to set a high bar for entry into the teaching profession; signaling high and quality levels of content preparation, pedagogical knowledge, and clinical experience?
  3. Does the new system of licensure empower the teaching profession to set its own high professional standards through a governance board of practitioners (as is the case with the Colorado Medical Board or the Colorado Bar Association)?
  4. Does the new system of licensure operate as a high reliability system, ensuring that every child in Colorado has a high quality educator in every subject, grade, and specialty area?
  5. Does the new system of licensure recognize genuine professional growth, as demonstrated through comprehensive and peer-based determinations?
  6. Does the new system of licensure consider a teaching license a rigorous and hard-earned professional property right, which is afforded due process in order to be removed?
  7. Does the new system of licensure aggressively safeguard the quality of the profession by removing the property right of licensure (through a fair mechanism with due process) from those who violate professional ethos, standards of professional quality, or who do harm to children?
  8. Does the new system of licensure recognize the presence of error and bias all measures as well as the presence of Campbell’s law[1]?
  9. Does the new system of licensure consider teaching sacred and honorable?  A profession which has important dimensions of moral purpose and (most importantly) calling?

Conclusion

I commend the work of the LEAD Compact for its interest in supporting efforts to systemically raise educator quality across our great state.  It is my sincere hope that the evidence from other high prestige professions and high performing systems informs your work going forward.

Thank you for your time and consideration of these ideas and I look forward to your recommendations on how educator licensure might be re-imagined for genuine and sustained greatness.

With respect & admiration,

Jason E. Glass

Superintendent & Chief Learner


[1] “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” – Campbell, 1979.

The full document can be found here:

LEAD Memorandum